DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: MR. HOLMES (LionsGate)
Playing Sherlock Holmes seems to bring out the best in actors, and Ian McKellen is no exception in this rewarding adaptation of the 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind that reunites the actor with Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon.
We join the Great Detective in retirement in 1947, tending bees and recalling past cases, observing a world around him in the throes of progress and advancement – a world in which he is a relic. Yet even in his dotage, contending with increasing forgetfulness, this lion in winter is still innately, intensely curious, and a man of no small ego — yet also endearing and vulnerable.
Laura Linney makes her every scene count as Holmes’ widowed housekeeper, and Milo Parker shines as her son, whom Holmes takes under his wing. Made with affection and reverence, and sprinkled with references to the Arthur Conan Doyle canon, Mr. Holmes is an elegant and elementary delight. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.99. Rated PG-13.
AFTER THE BALL (Monarch Home Entertainment): Portia Doubleday headlines this modern-day, romantic-comedy riff on Cinderella as a fashion designer contending with wicked stepmother Lauren Holly before godmother Mimi Kuzyk helps her land Marc-Andre Grondin’s “Prince Charming,” available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
AMERICAN ULTRA (LionsGate): Small-town slacker Jesse Eisenberg turns out to be a deep-cover CIA “sleeper agent” in this messy, overly violent comedy that has its moments. Kristen Stewart (livelier than usual) plays Eisenberg’s girlfriend, with Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Walton Goggins, Tony Hale and Topher Grace (very funny as an odious CIA boss) also on hand. The DVD retails for $21.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $29.99. Rated R.
“THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW”: THE LOST EPISODES (Time Life): A self-explanatory six-DVD collection ($59.95 retail) of rarely-seen episodes from the long-running, award-winning CBS comedy/variety series hand-picked by Carol herself. Time Life has also released “The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes Ultimate Collection,” a massive, 22-DVD collection ($199.90 retail), as well as “The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes VIP Edition” ($399.95 retail) featuring a hand-written letter from Carol Burnett and certificate of authenticity. The latter two are available via TimeLife. com.
“CINEDIGM CHRISTMAS MOVIES” (Cinedigm): Chandra West and Antonio Cupo star in Norman Rockwell Presents: A Christmas Tail (2014); William Baldwin and son Michael Campion switch personalities, Freaky Friday-style, in Christmas Trade (2015), co-starring Denise Richards and Tom Arnold; Sarah Lancaster and Brendan Penny headline the Hallmark Channel’s ‘Tis the Season for Love (2015); Rachel Boston stars in Ice Sculpture Christmas (2015); Josie Bissett and Matthew Settle star in Paper Angels (2014). Each DVD retails for $14.93.
ELF: BUDDY’S MUSICAL CHRIST- MAS (Warner Home Video): An animated holiday comedy based on the 2003 film and subsequent Broadway musical, following the misadventures of the title elf (voiced by Jim Parsons). Mark Hamill, Kate Micucci, Fred Armisen, Gilbert Gottfried, Matt Lauer and Edward Asner (reprising his role as Santa) round out the vocal contingent. The DVD retails for $14.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $19.98.
“GEORGE GENTLY”: SERIES 7 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Martin Shaw returns in the title role of the ‘60s-era police inspector in four feature-length episodes from the 2015 season of the popular BBC mystery series, broadcast in the US by PBS and available on DVD and Blu-ray (each retailing for $59.99.)
“JANE THE VIRGIN”: THE COM- PLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video): Gina Rodriguez plays the title role in all 22 episodes from the inaugural 2014-’15 season of the critically acclaimed, award-winning situation comedy (aired on The CW), about a girl who finds herself in a family way after being artificially inseminated by mistake. Anthony Mendez earned an Emmy nomination as Best Narrator, but Rodriguez took home a Golden Globe award. The DVD collection ($49.99 retail) includes bonus features.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Home Video): Guy Ritchie’s botched bigscreen adaptation of the popular ‘60s spy series, with handsome but wooden Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as KGB counterpart Illya Kuryakin. Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki supply the glamour, Hugh Grant and Jared Harris the exposition – but none of it sticks. A proposed franchise evaporated with disappointing reviews and box-office. The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99. Rated PG-13.
“MISS FISHERS’S MURDER MYSTERIES”: SERIES 3 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Essie Davis is back on the case as the glamorous sleuth Phryne Fisher, bringing evildoers to justice in the jazz age of post-World War I Australia, in all eight episodes from the 2015 season of the award-winning series, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $49.99 retail).
“MONARCH CHRISTMAS COM- EDIES” (Monarch Home Entertainment): A pair of yuletide romantic comedies: Haylie Duff and Maureen McCormack in 2015’s Christmas Mix (AKA Naughty and Nice); Kristy Swanson and Dean Cain in 2014’s Merry Ex-Mas. Each DVD retails for $24.95..
“MY FAVORITE MARTIAN”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Dark Sky Films/ MPI Media Group): Ray Walston plays the visitor from another world and Bill Bixby his Earthling pal, in all 107 episodes from the entire 1963-’66 run of the popular CBS situation comedy, available in a 15-DVD collection ($99.95 retail) that includes special features for “Martian” mavens.
“THE NANNY”: SEASON FOUR (Shout! Factory): The inimitable Fran Drescher returns in a DVD collection ($34.99 retail) of all 26 episodes from the 1996-’97 season of the CBS sitcom, which earned three Emmy nominations including one for Drescher as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Shout! Factory has also released the 19-DVD collection “The Nanny: The Complete Series” – all 146 episodes from the 1993-’99 run of the series ($149.99 retail).
PATCH TOWN (Kino Lorber): Director/ producer/writer Craig Godwill’s distinctive, award-winning version of his short film is a stylish amalgam of Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and David Lynch – with musical numbers! – set in an Orwellian society where hefty everyman Rob Ramsay upsets the status quo by seeking his mother (Zoie Palmer) – prompting pursuit by black-hat baddies Julian Richings and Ken Hall. Alan C. Peterson, Suresh John and newcomer Stephanie Pitsiladis round out an enthusiastic cast. Definite cult possibilities.
“SCORPION”: SEASON ONE (CBS DVD/Paramount): The timely topic of hi-tech espionage is dramatized in this CBS series with Elyes Gabel, Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham and Robert Patrick. All 22 episodes from the inaugural 2014-’15 season are available on DVD ($64.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($76.99 retail), both replete with special features.
SHELBY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Rob Schneider provides the voice for the title character, a mischievous canine, in this family-friendly, holiday-themed comedy with Tom Arnold the local dogcatcher and Chevy Chase a goofy grandpa. The DVD retails for $19.98.
TESTAMENT OF YOUTH (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Vera Brittain’s best-selling memoir about life and love in pre-World War I England has been adapted in this PG-13-rated romantic drama starring Alicia Vikander as a freespirited feminist and Kit Harington as the poet she falls for – until fate intervenes. Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, Taron Egerton and Dominic West round out the cast. The DVD retails for $30.99, the DVD for $34.99. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.